Elon Musk donated 5 million Tesla shares to charity after teasing possible donation to fight world hunger
Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk donated more than 5 million Tesla shares in November, days after the United Nations World Food Program outlined a plan to potentially use a $6 billion donation of the richest man in the world.
A filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission made public on Monday showed the donation, but not the recipient. The Tesla TSLA,
the shares were transferred in batches between November 19 and November 29, as Musk was also selling Tesla shares in preparation for a large tax bill.
On Halloween, Musk promised on twitter
that he would sell Tesla stock and donate $6 billion to the United Nations World Food Program if he “can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $6 billion will solve world hunger.” The program’s executive director, David Beasley, responded with a proposal on Monday, Nov. 15, and Musk began transferring shares to charity the following Friday.
World Food Program spokesman Steve Taravella declined to divulge any information when contacted on Monday. An email to Tesla, which disbanded its PR team in 2020, was not returned.
“To respect the privacy of our supporters, WFP’s practice has always been to leave any disclosure of potential contributions to the donors themselves,” Taravella wrote in an email to MarketWatch.
Musk has not publicly responded to Beasley’s proposal from the WFP, who tagged Musk in tweets asking for financial support from famous billionaires. Musk instead spent the day Beasley posted him lashing out at US Senator Bernie Sanders over taxes, after the Vermont independent and former Democratic presidential candidate tweeted: “We must demand that extremely wealthy pay their fair share. Period.”
At the time, Musk was selling millions of shares in preparation for a large tax bill, while also exercising stock options at much lower prices. Even with the gifted shares disclosed in Monday’s filing, Musk owns about 2 million more shares — 172.6 million in total — than he owned when he began selling the shares.
Beasley has continued to tweet at Musk since the donation in apparent attempts to work together, including a November 20 tweet asking him to “shock us all. Do it.” He last tweeted at Musk on Dec. 16, according to a Twitter search.
It’s also possible the donation went to Musk’s own philanthropic organization, the Musk Foundation, which he started in 2002 and held just under $1 billion at the end of June 2020, according to a federal filing. Billionaires tend to divert shares to their own foundations before donating to the charitable causes of those organizations.
For example, another electric vehicle leader, Fisker Inc. FSR,
Chief executive and chairman Henrik Fisker, directed $4 million in stock to create a foundation in his and his wife’s name and $1.9 million to a donor-advised fund. That decision was also made public on Monday afternoon in a filing with the SEC, though that electric vehicle company also issued a press release outlining where the money was going.
In 2012, Musk signed the Giving Pledge, a public pledge to give away at least half of his fortune while he was alive or when he died. Compared to some of his wealthy peers, he has been relatively quiet about his philanthropy until last year. Musk announced a $100 million prize aimed at helping solve climate change, and he made several other donations in 2021, including a $1 million contribution to a Texas food bank, Vox reported. Musk occasionally announces his philanthropic activities on Twitter, including a September post about donating $50 million for childhood cancer research.
At Monday’s closing price of $875.76, the 5,044,000 shares of Tesla are worth about $4.42 billion; on Nov. 19, when Musk began trading, the total outlay would have been around $5.74 billion at the closing price.
MarketWatch editor Leslie Albrecht contributed to this report.